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We Fell in Love With SFU

On January 1st of this year, we went home. We moved to UniverCity at Simon Fraser University (SFU). The university really is like a home to Ryan and I. Not only are we SFU grads, but we both worked for the university, and most importantly, met one another there.

This connection with the university and our recent move inspired me to submit our story to the “We Fell in Love at SFU” contest launched by the university’s alumni association. In fact, I didn’t actually know there was a contest connected with the call for submissions. I just wanted to share our experience.

My SFU Story

Well, it turns out there was and we won an amazing prize package, which I will describe in detail later. However, the focus of this post is on our love for SFU itself.

I attended SFU from 1994 to 1997. Every time I stepped on campus, I took a deep breath. Anyone who has spent time on top of a mountain knows what I’m talking about. It’s so refreshing, and the view never disappoints. Also, the smallness of the campus always appealed to me. It never took very long to get anywhere and there were always opportunities to meet people outside of your own faculty.

Two Amazing Instructors

My major was English and my minor was political science. I had some great instructors. A couple in particular have always stuck with me. Dr. Sheila Roberts taught Medieval Literature classes. She began her lectures by playing music that had a connection to the works we were studying. In one of her tutorials, she brought in a medieval feast she’d made, and I remember being so impressed that she’d baked authentic medieval bread! Sheila always knew how to create a classroom atmosphere that was conducive to learning and stimulating to the imagination.

Dr. Jerry Zaslove taught a course focused on the works of Franz Kafka and stories inspired by him. In my early 20s, Kafka made a huge impression on me. I don’t think any work of literature influenced me as much as The Trial. What Jerry did when teaching Kafka’s powerful novels and short stories was encourage us to engage in critical thinking, and discuss contentious ideas with one another in a respectful way. To this day, I still keep the “Team Kafka” button he had made for each of us.

I have other fond memories of my time at SFU too. Sitting by the pond, feeling the sun on my face as I studied for exams; going to the pub basement and getting a mammoth vegetarian sandwich for only $2; watching foreign films at Images Theatre with friends. Not surprisingly, the list of reminiscences is long, and sometimes I wish I could relive those years all over again.

Ryan’s SFU Story

SFU Sweatshirt
Ryan Wears His Winning SFU Sweatshirt

Ryan wanted to share some thoughts about his time at SFU too, so I present them here:

SFU was where I met some of my best friends and learned vital skills, and a lot of that happened in the Computing Science Student Society’s (CSSS’) common room. That narrow, cramped space, still in use today, had a video terminal you could check email on, a cheap pop machine, and some of the smartest people I have ever met. The conversations I had there were as educational as most of my courses. In an even odder turn of events, I was briefly the president of the society.

Our SFU Prize Package

SFU alumni prize box
SFU Prize Box

So, it’s time to talk about the fabulous prize package! The $150 box of delights included:

  • Two bags
  • Two sweatshirts
  • One USB
  • One sweatshirt blanket
  • Two glass tumblers
  • One very nice card from the alumni association

Thank you, alumni association, we are loving everything and are so happy to be back at SFU!

Pomme Natural Market Ladies Night Win

Why Free Food is Awesome

I have a special fondness for winning free food. Aside from cold, hard cash, I think food is the most useful kind of prize. I’m also a big fan of consumables at the moment. After 15 years in the same house, we’re moving. Thus, the less we have to box and cart with us, the better.

Pomme Natural Market

It was especially delightful that the free food in question came from Pomme Natural Market via their Ladies Night on October 21st. Pomme is an amazing place. It is the anti-supermarket. The store is packed full of out-of-the-ordinary yumminess in a manageable space. I’m often looking for dairy-free food and healthy carbs and Pomme offers lots of options. My mother and my friend Anne, who came with me to Ladies Night, like Pomme’s selection of vegetarian products.

Ladies Night

Ladies Night was a lot of fun. I drove in after a long day’s work downtown, happy for the change of scene. Initially, I felt overwhelmed. So many ladies in one space! However, Anne and I made our way around the store sampling and playing various games, at which she excelled and I performed rather badly at. As usual, I also enjoyed my Pomme shopping trip and taking advantage of the 10% discount that evening.

The Find of the Night
Wild Hibiscus in Syrup
Wild Hibiscus in Syrup

So, as I mentioned, there was some serious sampling going on at Pomme’s Ladies Night. I was attracted to one particular sampling table, as I saw a large crowd around it and heard the lady offering up the samples saying in a hushed tone, “These are from Australia.” It was if she was presenting the first Martian food ever to grace planet Earth! That being said, the wild hibiscus flowers in syrup stuffed with goat cheese were so delectable. Definitely has the wow factor necessary for Christmas entertaining.

Winning Update

Surprisingly, 2016 is starting to look better in terms of winning now! I found out about this prize the day after my Ghost Train win. The tickets for the event were only $10 each, but just look at what was in my swag bag! Strictly speaking, I should value this prize at $20, but I am tempted to up it a little. Ah, well, I’ll think about it at year end. Stayed tuned.

Winning My Way onto The Ghost Train

A Change of Scene

It’s amazing how transformative darkness can be. A familiar place suddenly becomes mysterious. Add some colourful lights, spooky figures, and a mariachi band and you’re celebrating the Day of the Dead on a cool October night in Stanley Park.

Thanks to the Westender, my friends and I got to have just such an experience on Tuesday, October 11th. We were given the VIP treatment, complete with free VIP access to the Ghost Train, a free trip to the Spooky Barn, and warm cups of hot chocolate.

The Ghost Train

If you’re after jump-out-of-your-seat scares, the Ghost Train in Stanley Park is not for you. It states clearly on their website that this is a family-friendly activity. However, on the 14-minute ride I did have a good time. You travel by a series of scenes, and performers act out the part of everything from cockroaches to Day of the Dead puppets.

Day of the Dead Puppets at the Stanley Park Ghost Train
Day of the Dead Puppets

Music helps to set the mood, which is at times eerie, but mostly rather pleasant. Sitting on a cute train watching the scenes as I go by with my friends really is a rather wonderful way to spend a Tuesday night.

The Spooky Barn

After the train ride, we checked out a few other things, including the Haunted Maze, exhibits by the Stanley Park Ecological Society, and the pumpkin patch, but what I enjoyed most was the Spooky Barn.

The Spooky Barn at the Stanley Park Ghost Train
The Spooky Barn

Inside, there’s a series of peep holes. Take a look through and you’ll see art that depicts the Seven Stages of Man from William Shakespeare’s play, As You Like It.

Skeleton Art
Peek-a-Boo Art

I absolutely loved it.

 

The artwork also seemed inspired by Edward Gorey, which fans of PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery! will be sure to recognize. The Barn also has a dance floor for those inclined to get down to the mariachi music.

Looking back on this Tuesday night, I can’t help but smile. It made me happy with its lighthearted injection of spookiness, and took me out of the house and into the night with my friends. Always a great place to be.

Winnings Update

I received four VIP passes to the Stanley Park Ghost Train and Spooky Barn. These were worth $71.60. We also received free hot chocolate, so I feel good about valuing this prize at $75. This is only my second win of 2016, but it’s not my last! The very next day

10 Contests that Changed History

Sadly, I haven’t had a lot of success winning contests lately. That reality has started to sink in and I’m feeling a bit depressed. I’d settle for a free cup of tea or maybe a good book. I’m not asking for a trip to Hawaii, a car, or lots of cash. Just something that I could write about; that I could experience and you could experience along with me. That’s been my intrinsic motivation for this blog since it began, and will continue to propel me forward.

In any case, it’s time to get inspired. Sandra Grauschof’s post made for a very interesting read, and I’ll hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. Ponder her initial question:

Have you ever thought about how many contests have changed history?

Then, take some time to read the amazing true stories about how contests have been the catalyst for change and invention.

Source: 10 Contests that Changed History

How Lucky Can Anybody Be?

The Genesis

At a dark, corner table in the Waldorf Hotel two friends (yours truly is one of them) launched a year-long competition: enter as many free contests as possible and see who wins the most. The winner had to treat the loser to a free dinner at the Waldorf.

I was the one who ended up buying dinner.

Yes, after emerging victorious at the end of 2011, I decided to continue entering contests on my own. So far, I have won more than $3000 in cash and prizes.

Follow my winning streak and I’ll share all the amazing experiences I have along the way.

Vintage Teacups, For the Win!

Relics from a bygone era. Treasures from decades past. Whatever you call them, we have become a culture obsessed with all things vintage. I am an unapologetic member of this culture; an aging hipster who still gleefully snaps up Don Ho vinyl records, Pyrex bowls, and English bone china teacups. Thus, I was very happy to have won a Royal Stafford June Roses teacup and saucer, as well as a Robert Gordon tea infuser from Liv Lovely, an exhibitor at the vintage fair I attended yesterday, Town and Country Vintage Market. Continue reading “Vintage Teacups, For the Win!”

2015 Ends With Two Wins!

Happy New Year! I hope 2015 was a great one for all of you, and that 2016 will bring you much joy and happiness. Personally, I’m sad to see 2015 go. I had one of my best years ever—a new job, great graphic design classes, a wonderful trip overseas, and some fantastic new friendships.

With all the changes in my professional and personal life, I didn’t have as much time for entering contests in 2015. However, I did have some memorable wins earlier this year and December ended with two wins; a great way to end 2015. Continue reading “2015 Ends With Two Wins!”

The Adventures of a Shutterbug

The Dawn of Digital

I’ve always loved taking photos. I took one course in high school and one in college, and enjoyed snapping away. However, I despised developing in claustrophobia-inducing darkrooms. Fortunately, digital has put an end to all that. I’ve also received an injection of new motivation recently. I was fortunate enough to get an iPhone 6 for Christmas. Now, I have an easy-to-carry lens with me wherever I go and no excuse not to take photos.

My Photo Made It To The Finals

Back in August, I went to Cultus Lake Adventure Park and took this photo:

Cultus Lake photo

It’s one of the many rides I went on that day. I even braved the roller coaster for what may have been the first and last time. The amusement park is a photographer’s dream, as there is an array of colours, lights, and the interesting juxtaposition of man-made whirling machines and the serene natural surroundings.

As I mentioned in my last post, my photo made the finals in the Cultus Lake Adventure Park contest. It garnered some very kind votes from friends, family, coworkers, and strangers, but lost out to a photo of a cute child. My niece and/or nephew will have to star in some future photo contest entries!

The Woman in the Window

Film Noir Fascinates

In luscious black-and-white, the screen flickers. It takes us back to a world filled with crimes, intrigues, and elegant men and women with dark pasts. Film Noir. I’m a die hard fan and have been for years. Thus, I was delighted to win tickets to the screening of my choice during The Cinematheque‘s recent Film Noir series. I chose The Woman in the Window. It’s not as well-known as some other Noir classics, but I had to see it.

Edward G. Robinson, More Than a Gangster

The primary reason was the lead actor, Edward G. Robinson. I feel about Robinson the way many people felt about Lady Gaga after she sang The Sound of Music classic at The Oscars. Why, exactly, had this woman with a fantastic voice been wasting her time singing songs like “Poker Face” all these years? Robinson played so many gangster roles throughout his career that it’s easy to think his abilities as an actor were limited to these parts. A few performances, however, showed audiences that he was capable of so much more.

The Woman in the Window was one of the films that demonstrated his ability to convey pathos, inner turmoil, and utter despair. Yet, he displayed a subtle, restrained sense of humour at other points in this movie, as well. He goes from being a rather staid, middle-aged professor to a man bewitched by beauty. He becomes capable of acts that we, the audience, couldn’t have conceived of him doing moments earlier.

Two Endings

I would encourage all of you to seek out this film, if not for Robinson’s performance, but for the ending. I’m not one for giving away key plot points, but let’s just say there are two endings to this film. The first is the real ending. The ending that the film would have had if it were made today. Instead, it concludes with the censors’ ending. Even in Film Noir, bad guys don’t get off scot-free and bad deeds don’t go unpunished. The world was always portrayed as a generally good place, even while World War II was raging.

Well, this latest win brings my total to $225 for 2015. Look for my next installment when I describe the experience as a finalist in a photo contest.

Okanagan Spring Brewmaster’s Dinner, Part Two

Beer Reviews

For those of you who missed last week’s post on Win #4, I will provide you with a brief recap of what happened. The rest of you can skip gleefully past the next paragraph and get ready to learn what my husband thought of five Okanagan Spring beers.

I was delighted to win two tickets to the Okanagan Spring Brewmaster’s Dinner at Mamie Taylor‘s courtesy of Miss 604. However there was a problem. I don’t drink beer. I have tried many times to cultivate a love for Canada’s national beverage, but I have failed. However, I have somewhat redeemed myself by marrying a devotee of the brew. Thus, if you’re here for the beer, here are some excerpts from the on-the-spot reviews I got Ryan to record:

Okanagan Beer
Okanagan Beer

Beer #1: Okanagan Spring Pale Ale

“This is a particularly nice beer…It’s a nice, well-balanced, mellow beer..really approachable. I could pretty much drink this all day, and possibly I will.”

Beer #2: Okanagan Spring Sonder Hefeweizen

“This is a wheat beer…and if you like wheat beers, I think you’ll like this one. It’s got a very strong vanilla overtone, which is quite interesting for a wheat beer. Generally, this is like kinda your ideal summer beer.”

Beer #3: Okanagan Spring Cloudy Amber Ale

“I like it a lot, ’cause it’s beer..well, it’s got kind of a nice, mellow amber ale-ness. Basically, an amber ale should have a nice, strong beer flavour, a nice balance of hops, and beer-ness  and it’s got all of that. This is a perfectly, decent amber ale.

Beer #4: Okanagan Spring Porter

“To be honest, my tastebuds are kind of shot by the previous four beers, but if you like porter, I think you’ll like this porter.”

Now, at this point you may be wondering why the first beer of the evening, the Okanagan Spring 1516 Bavarian Lager hasn’t received a review. That is because it was served as part of a michelada cocktail, so it wasn’t possible to assess its flavour on its own. However, Ryan very much enjoyed the cocktail.

When asked what his favourite beer of the night was, Ryan had difficulty picking a clear winner. He enjoyed everything he drank, but particularly liked the porter and the amber ale. They most closely aligned with the type of beers he particularly likes.